A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – Book Review

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My Review:

A Court of Thorns and Roses is very much a Beauty and the Beast re-telling with a very strong Young Adult vibe.  Being that I am quite caught up in the current Beauty and The Beast Live Action craze, I was really looking forward to reading this book.  Prior to this book, the only other Sarah J. Maas book that I have read was Throne of Glass.  I liked that book but I liked this book much better.

Feyre is our heroine.  She and her family are struggling to get by and rely on Feyre’s hunting skills.  It is on one of her treks into the forest that she comes across a humongous wolf who she suspects to be faerie.  Faerie are dangerous and Feyre doesn’t hesitate to kill and skin it for its pelt.  Little does she know how this action will change the course of her life.

Where in the original Beauty and the Beast, Beauty winds up with the Beast because of her father pilfering a rose, in this story Feyre winds up with her beast/faerie as a result of killing the wolf.  I liked the story line and the introduction of the Fae world and Feyre’s relationship with her captor, Tamlin.  There is a lot of magic and faeries and conflict.  Feyre is a typical YA heroine who has to go through hideous trials and tribulations to save the day.  I like YA novels for their fantasy and world building, but I still haven’t been won over by the assassin/kick-ass heroines who have to go through such torturous physical pain in order to be victorious.  I still like a good, old-fashioned fairy tale ending with no broken bones.

That said, I do actually look forward to reading the next book in this series.

 

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley – Book Review

 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads Description

The sisters’ wealthy father loses all his money when his merchant fleet is drowned in a storm, and the family moves to a village far away. Then the old merchant hears what proves to be a false report that one of his ships had made it safe to harbor at last, and on his sad, disappointed way home again he becomes lost deep in the forest and has a terrifying encounter with a fierce Beast, who walks like a man and lives in a castle. The merchant’s life is forfeit, says the Beast, for trespass and the theft of a rose—but he will spare the old man’s life if he sends one of his daughters: “Your daughter would take no harm from me, nor from anything that lives in my lands.” When Beauty hears this story—for her father had picked the rose to bring to her—her sense of honor demands that she take up the Beast’s offer, for “cannot a Beast be tamed?”

My Review

This book was first published in 1993.  It is a book that I recently discovered as a result of my Beauty and the Beast love affair resulting from the recent release of the Disney live action movie.  What I loved so much about this book was that it stayed true to the story and there was no retelling it in a way that changed the story or made me feel like it was now being turned into a young adult version of the story.  It is a fairy tale version for adults that retained its magic and romance and when I finished it I could see myself re-reading it again soon.  Robin McKinley takes a tale as old as time and retells it so that it stands the test of time.  Loved it!

Uprooted Book Review by Naomi Novik

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads Review

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Reveiw

Every ten years in the valley village of Dvernik a seventeen year old girl, born between one October and the next, is taken by the Dragon, the local wizard, to live with him in his castle where they are not seen again until they return home ten years later and then usualy leave the village for good.  These girls are called Dragon-born girls.  Agnieszka is one of these young women.  Her father is a wood cutter and she has three older brothers.  The entire village believes her good friend, Kasia, will be the chosen one.  Kasia is the prettiest and most capable of all the village girls.  When the Dragon appears everyone is shocked when it is Agnieszka who is taken instead.

Agnieszka is left to her own devices when she arrives at the castle with no instructions or guidance about what is expected of her.  As a result she ends up annoying the Dragon with all of her mistakes.  Agnieszka does eventually find her way and surprises herself as well as the Dragon (whose actual name is Sarkan) with her own unrealized strengths and talents.

There is a very strong Beauty-and-the-Beast-like theme running through the story.  The ending is quite different although magic plays a part in both stories.  This book is very magical and has the feeling of an adult fairy tale.

Agnieszka is a very likable heroine.  She is tough, curious, and compassionate.  She finds an inner-strength as a result of her experience with Sarkan that she would never have realized if she was never taken.  This is a stand alone story.  While the ending became a little convoluted for me, I would love to read more about Agnieszka and what else lies ahead for her.

 

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter – book review

 

 

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads summary:

“In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…”

My Review

Vassa lives in Brooklyn with her stepmother Iliana, stepsister Chelsea, and half sister Stephanie. Vassa’s father disappeared some time ago.   Iliana works at night so the girls are home alone in the evening, although it is nighttime more than usual in Vassa’s part of Brooklyn.  Daylight seems to make a rare occurrence these days.  Chelsea and Vassa get along but Stephanie is always angry with Vassa because she thinks Vassa is stealing her things and holds a grudge  One night when all the lights go out in their apartment Vassa leaves to get new light bulbs at Stephanie’s urging.  Chelsea is worried because the only store open is BY’s, a local store whose owner beheads shoplifters.  Stephanie doesn’t care and is somewhat eager for Vassa to shop there.  Vassa leaves for the store, taking this task as a dare.  This is where the book takes a very strange and bizarre turn.

Around this time I was having some very serious concerns about this book and thought there was a good chance of me not finishing it.  Then I remembered that the story is based on a Russian fairy tale called Vassilissa the Beautiful.  I googled it and read a brief version of the story and that helped change my enjoyment of the story.  I really did a 180 with it.  Suddenly a story of a 16 year old girl who goes to a store in urban Brooklyn that stands on dancing chicken legs and owned by a blood thirsty witch who is hell bent on beheading her customers with the help of a set of walking hands that used to belong to a beheaded customer didn’t seem like I was reading a book that made me feel like I had just eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms.  When it is approached as a fairy tale with a heroine who is captured by a wicked witch and needs to break a spell in order to escape, it becomes much more fun and enjoyable to read.  And, oh yes, throw in a living wooden doll and a mysterious cursed motorcycle rider who has part of the night trapped in his visor and is tasked with making sure Vassa doesn’t escape.

I truly liked Vassa.  She is spunky, tough, funny, loyal and still grieving the loss of her mother.  Her wooden doll Erg, who is small enough to fit in Vassa’s pocket, is a deathbed gift from her mother.  Erg is enchanted and alludes to the fact that Vassas’ mother, Zinaida, was a witch.  Erg loves to eat, steal things, and is loyal to Vassa.  I found this story line of Vassa’s and Erg’s relationship to be very quirky and interesting.  The way it concludes is emotional.

Babs Yagg, the witchy store owner is truly scary and the perfect villain for this story.  Instead of the witch in the woods of traditional fairytales, we get Babs.  What I would have liked to read more of is her backstory and connection to Vassa’s mother.  There are several chapters called Interludes that tell the back story of events that help the reader to understand why things are happening  in the present day.  I would have liked to see more of the mother’s story fleshed out and explained.  I think this would have added more to the likability of the book and make it seem less weird.

Overall, I liked the story once I approached it as a traditional fairy tale and not the Disneyfied kind.  I love the Disney versions of fairy tales but it is easy to forget that the original versions of those stories had moments that were quite violent and scary.  This is the kind of fairy tale you get with Vassa in the Night.